how to fire an employee

How to Fire An Employee With Confidence and Respect

April 10, 2019

Firing an employee is one of the toughest parts of any manager’s job and while it will never likely get “easy” (unless you’re a heartless person), it does get more manageable with practice.

The first step in the process is having full clarity about the reason(s) why the employee must be fired. From there, you should spend time thinking through what exactly you’ll want to say to the employee so you can go into the situation fully prepared and composed.

Once you’ve got those initial basic steps down and have picked a date and time, use these following 8 guidelines around how to fire an employee so that you come off as confident and respectful:

1. Choose a comfortable, private location

Where you deliver the tough news is just as important as what you say and do during the process, and choosing a comfortable location shows respect for the person’s privacy and emotions. Always fire an employee in a private space (unless you think there is a legitimate security risk or another major issue). This allows the employee to retain some dignity and prevents others from overhearing and gossiping about the conversation. When choosing the location, think about your employee’s comfort, not your own. That means if there are private offices available – either yours or the employee’s – have the conversation there. Otherwise, have him or her come to a private conference room or neutral space.

2. State your purpose at the top of the meeting and keep it concise

A termination conversation is not a time to beat around the bush. Start the conversation right away by informing your employee that he or she is being terminated at the very beginning of your meeting. This can be as simple as, “I have some bad news. We are letting you go. This will be your last day here.” Keep in mind that this is probably the hardest part of a termination conversation because it’s the exact moment that the employee realizes that they will no longer have a job. To soften the blow, a lot of managers opt for a more gentle delivery of the news but taking this approach can actually lead to confusion on all sides. It’s actually much better to be straightforward and succinct.

3. Prepare for an emotional reaction

No matter how much you might think an employee could or should have “seen it coming”, being fired almost always takes an employee by surprise and typically elicits all kinds of different emotional responses from different people. Whether it’s plain shock, despair, sadness, anger, resentment, or any combination of the above, you should brace yourself for any type of emotional response and do your best to remain calm and steadfast in the face of it. The worst thing to do would be, in the face a very emotional response, for you to let your guilt overcome you and derail what would otherwise be a straightforward termination conversation.

4. Don’t leave an opening for argument

After delivering the actual news (“We’re letting you go”) and working through any initial emotionality, it’s then time to provide a brief justification for your decision. But again, be brief! Keep it to one sentence: “We’re letting you go because you’ve repeatedly missed important deadlines” or “We’re letting you go because you’re not a good fit with the culture here.” Providing longer justifications opens the door for your employee to argue with the decision. These types of arguments go nowhere and end up being painful for everyone. If the person tries to respond with a plea to reconsider, simple repeat “This decision is final.”

5. Don’t apologize

As a boss, you – not anyone else – owns the decision to terminate an employee. And since it’s human nature to want to apologize for causing someone else pain, you might have the urge to apologize when you’re firing someone. Whatever you do, though – don’t. Saying that you’re sorry sends the message that you’re to blame or that it wasn’t your decision to begin with. If you must express regret, phrase it as “I’m sorry the situation has gotten to this point.” This conveys a general sense of regret without giving an opportunity to question your judgment.

6. Get ready to discuss the details

After delivering the news, there is a lot of HR business to potentially go over such as severance packages, benefits, unused vacation time, next steps and other HR details. Even if other members of your team handles the off-boarding process, stay in the room until the conversation is complete. This may be awkward after delivering bad news, but it demonstrates that you care about the employee’s transition out from the company and respect them enough to be supportive through that process.

7. Say thank you

Close the conversation by thanking your employee for his or her contributions to your organization. This may feel a bit awkward, but it ends the meeting on a warmer note. If you can come up with a specific compliment, even better. Provide your contact information and encourage the person to reach out with any questions.

8. Document Everything

When the meeting concludes, document the details of your conversation. Include details from any performance improvement plans you enacted and b as specific as possible when detailing the reasons for termination. Having a paper trail is critical should the terminated employee try to pursue any sort of legal action against your company later on.


The undesirable task of firing an employee has the potential to end really badly if you don’t handle it well. This is especially true if you, as a manager, go into it unprepared and inconsiderate of the employee who’s about to receive the bad news. Following these tips, however, will help you feel confident that you’re doing the right thing and also ensure that you give the situation the respect it deserves.



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Linda Le Phan
Senior Content Marketing Manager at kununu.

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